Portal:Gilbert and Sullivan

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Introduction

Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) and to the works they jointly created. The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado are among the best known.

Gilbert, who wrote the libretti for these operas, created fanciful "topsy-turvy" worlds where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion—fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates emerge as noblemen who have gone astray. Sullivan, six years Gilbert's junior, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that could convey both humour and pathos.

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Illustration of Thespis by D. H. Friston
Thespis is an operatic extravaganza that was the first collaboration between dramatist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. It was never published, and most of the music is now lost. However, Gilbert and Sullivan went on to become one of the most famous and successful partnerships in Victorian England, creating a string of comic opera hits, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, that continue to be popular. Thespis premièred in London at the Gaiety Theatre on 26 December 1871. Like many productions at that theatre, it was written in a broad, burlesque style, considerably different from Gilbert and Sullivan's later works. It was a modest success—for a Christmas entertainment of the time—and closed on 8 March 1872, after a run of 63 performances. It was advertised as "An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts". The story follows an acting troupe headed by Thespis, the legendary Greek father of the drama, who temporarily trade places with the gods on Mount Olympus, who have grown elderly and ignored. The actors turn out to be comically inept rulers. Having seen the ensuing mayhem down below, the angry gods return, sending the actors back to Earth as "eminent tragedians, whom no one ever goes to see."

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Helen Carte
Helen Carte or Helen Lenoir (12 May 1852 – 5 May 1913) was the second wife of impresario and hotelier Richard D'Oyly Carte. She is best known for her stewardship of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and Savoy Hotel from the end of the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century. Born in Wigtown, Scotland, Helen attended the University of London from 1871 to 1874 and pursued brief teaching and acting careers. In 1875, she met Richard D'Oyly Carte and soon became his assistant and business manager. She helped produce all of the Gilbert and Sullivan and other Savoy Operas, beginning with The Sorcerer in 1877 and for the rest of her life, and helped Carte with all of his business interests. One of her principal assignments was to superintend arrangements for American productions and tours of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Her grasp of detail and organisational and diplomacy skills surpassed even Carte's. Helen Lenoir married Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1888. During the 1890s, with Carte's health declining, Helen took greater and greater responsibility for the businesses, taking full control upon his death in 1901. She remarried in 1902 but continued to own the opera company and run most of the Carte business interests until her death, when they passed to her stepson, Rupert D'Oyly Carte.

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Part of a four-part Edison Records recording from 1911. Includes "We have sailed the ocean blue" "Hail, men of oarsmen", "I'm called Little Buttercup", and "A maiden fair to see"

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Gilbert and Sullivan

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Stephen Sondheim
The fact is popular art dates. It grows quaint. How many people feel strongly about Gilbert and Sullivan today compared to those who felt strongly in 1890?
Stephen Sondheim, (1989)

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